The Bitter and the Sweet | Teen Ink

The Bitter and the Sweet MAG

March 14, 2008
By Anonymous

The candy’s smooth wrapper crinkles as I trace its edges with my fingertips, imagining its contents. The wrapper tears like a fine fabric, revealing a corner of dark chocolate. I break off a piece and take pleasure in its creamy essence. I have always had a sweet tooth, but it is not just sugary snacks that I crave. Being raised by a single parent has been a bittersweet experience, but one that has given me resilience and ambition.

When I was young, my mother would tell me that the racks of candy in the store’s checkout line belonged to the cashier. She said this not to confuse me, avoid spoiling me, or even to teach me a lesson about earning rewards, though she inevitably did. She said it because she didn’t want me to worry because she could not afford a 50-cent chocolate bar. Nevertheless, I saw through her tactic and made a promise to myself that I would grow up to be prosperous enough to buy my family all the Hersheys on the stand.

Instead of focusing on our economic instability, my mother selflessly pushed me to strive for success so that I could lead a more comfortable life than hers. She worked long hours every night and struggled to pay the minimum due on her bills. Still, she would find time to read and snuggle with my sister, Emily, and me. Mom taught me the value of perseverance, education, and moral fiber. Although I did not have two parents, I was loved and nurtured just as much.

Not all of life’s milestones were easy; some left an insurmountably bitter taste in my mouth. Domestic abuse, divorce, and homelessness, for example. I dealt with these when my mother married a man in Maryland and moved us several states away from our roots in Georgia. The first few months were great: baseball games, family trips to the mall, dinners together, and movies. It felt like we were the perfect All-American family. Then things changed. Baseball games were too expensive, and trips to the mall were replaced with days Emily and I spent isolated in our rooms on his orders. Screaming matches between my stepfather and my mother interrupted dinners, and he swapped movie tickets for vodka.

We spent five years living in a family setting that had turned into a war zone. I remember the verbal spats became so routine that I would no longer rush to my little sister’s room to cradle her in my arms and wipe away the tears spilling down her cheeks. Emily and I grew so used to this lifestyle that we just turned on the televisions in our rooms to drown out the screams. We became immersed in the world of sugar-coated sitcoms, pretending the spiteful cursing matches downstairs were normal.

Then one evening, an argument erupted. My sister and I had begun to predict the start of these altercations. We called our system ETF, Estimated Time of Fight, named for its accuracy. Emily joked about patenting it some day. But on this night my mother swung open my bedroom door and told me to pack – we were leaving and not coming back. I could hear Emily sobbing in her room.

We loaded our things into Mom’s Ford, my step­father barking hatefully all the while. We drove for a long time before Mom pulled into the parking lot of a large store. I gazed out the window, watching people carry bags to their cars and head off to their warm homes. They were oblivious to our bittersweet tears. They had no idea how relieved and traumatized we felt, all at the same time. I was 14, my sister 11, school was still in session, and we were homeless.

“We’re not the first people to go through this, and we won’t be the last,” Mom assured us.

A friend of my mother’s let us stay with her. Each day, Mom would wake us before dawn so we could commute from Virginia to Maryland for our last three months of school. I remember looking out at the gleaming Washington Monument from the Potomac bridge, wondering how many others in the nation had suffered in silence. How many had packed up and moved on?

We eventually relocated to Texas, where Mom is still working to re-stabilize her life. And now, as I compose this essay with some dark chocolate – my favorite candy – close at hand, I realize my family and I are at the best point in our lives. I have triumphed here, both academically and personally. I ­satiate my hunger for knowledge by remaining dedicated to my intellectual pursuits – for example, the Distinguished Graduation Plan with its rigorous course of study and community service, and the learning opportunities it offers.

I savor the fact that I am not a bitter product of my environment; I am not a person who lets trying times interrupt her focus, for I know that they are learning experiences also. Success, like candy, can be the sweetest treat of all.

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This article has 107 comments.

on Dec. 20 2009 at 9:55 pm
Yousmell-likealoser BRONZE, Belgium, Wisconsin
4 articles 5 photos 43 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Life may not always be what you want, but life is all you've got; so stick a flower in your bellybutton and be happy!"

It's great. I really like this piece.

hanNxzs said...
on Nov. 30 2009 at 6:15 pm
this piece is great. it starts like a"bang" and ends like a "bang"... :D

on Nov. 28 2009 at 9:02 pm
Julietbyheart BRONZE, Coalton, Ohio
3 articles 0 photos 15 comments
That's really good. I can relate to a lot of that. You've done very well! I think that is a really tasty piece of chocloate - delecious reading.

Roisin GOLD said...
on Nov. 28 2009 at 6:51 pm
Roisin GOLD, Peabody, Massachusetts
10 articles 5 photos 28 comments
I really like how you emphasize taste in this essay, with the different tastes you use like bitter and sweet, which also add emphasis to the title. It makes the essay pull together throughout the whole thing, and the opening paragraph of this was amazing- it really made me want to continue reading.

on Nov. 19 2009 at 9:52 pm
success can be a lot of things. I thought it was my freedom from people's pitiful glances, neshaminy high's degradation, chaos at home, my (d)evil sister. I "made it" and assumed freedom too soon. PGSE accepted me twice for healthcare and then science and technology! World, see I am somebody, an intellectual, worthwhile. I am Central High and Philadelphia and 269. I rose up with replenished dignity . . . to only be setback by my parents . . . who knew nothing. "mom governer's school this year is not free like I said..they're just tellin us its gonna be round $2,300, Pennsylvania's got debt issues. "I always knew it was fake stuff like in the mail" says elder sister (in college) even though i've told her what it PGSE was. "Uh, we'll see"says my mom. "What is it?" and I explain. "No way. Mummy y r u wasting money like that?" and that was it. her word was more 'reliable' than mine. And society continued to pity me. They knew nothing about any of my efforts PGSE, etc. Soon enough pity turns to ignorance and distaste. Wasn't like we are poor, I live in what i'd call a mansion. What can I do??? There should be some law against this!! I still get letters from school officials and get nominated for all this stuff (ex. National youth leadership forum). my parents just say okay try it and then comes my sister and everything else. Should I keep trying. I mean its not that simple. National youth Leadership Forum is $1793 more than PGSE. And pondering fundraising . . but when I'm in this situation w/ society? Mental poverty and delirium is much worse than actual physical poverty. You're life hangs on one string of faith.

Anam14 SILVER said...
on Nov. 18 2009 at 6:57 pm
Anam14 SILVER, Houston, Texas
5 articles 0 photos 5 comments

Favorite Quote:
"When you are stuck between two problems, just flip a coin. It works not because it solves the problem but because when the coin is in the air, you know what your heart is really hoping for"

I would simply say ... I Love it!

on Nov. 17 2009 at 7:08 am
MandaPanda18 BRONZE, Burton, Michigan
1 article 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
Lifes like a box of chocolates, you never know what flavor your going to get!

This is a really awesome essay because there are many mothers out there going through the same thing your mom went through and there are many children who are going through the same things you went throgh girl....

Miranda said...
on Nov. 4 2009 at 5:42 pm
Thanks for the continued support and constructive criticism, everyone. I haven't left feedback on this essay in a while, but I'd like to point out that I wrote this almost 3 years ago, so my writing has definitely matured since then.


Grace, I'm not sure what you mean by your comment?

on Nov. 4 2009 at 11:38 am
Phantom_Girl GOLD, Ft. Carson, Colorado
14 articles 0 photos 279 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If it comes out of the lion's will be on the test."
-Mr. Bala

You are not alone, girl. I went through a lot of this, but thank God, never the homelessness. Never give up!

JustHales said...
on Sep. 23 2009 at 11:08 pm
Wow, I really like this essay! It was really an amazing story and I'm glad that you never succumbed to bitterness.

ayyyism said...
on Jan. 26 2009 at 7:05 pm
dangggggggg gurlllll

thats me rigth thurrrrr







Hayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy gurl hay!

ayyyism said...
on Jan. 15 2009 at 7:19 pm
dangggggggg gurlllll u went through that? you bomb though, stay upppppppp!

brdwaybabe94 said...
on Jan. 4 2009 at 3:01 am
That was absolutely touched my heart; and may i add that your wording and similies/metaphors were used very well.

mcs142354 said...
on Jan. 2 2009 at 4:57 pm
What class was this essay for?

very well done. keep writing!

Moose said...
on Dec. 25 2008 at 5:55 pm
wow, superb essay,

really touches the heart.

Tigerlils13 said...
on Dec. 12 2008 at 9:32 pm
Your essay really touched my heartstrings! For the past several months, I've been struggling with my own college essay, but in the end, I wrote about a topic similar to your own. I applaud you, for I know how hard it can be to write about such a difficult personal experience without sounding immature or making your life out to be a pity party! Your essay is wonderfully polished in a way that I can only hope mine to be. I hope your essay serves you well in your college pursuits!

kaymay said...
on Dec. 4 2008 at 3:45 am
Wow! That was awesome! The last part of the first paragraph was my favorite. It was so well-written. Any of my attempts to get that message across would have been unbearably awkward. Congrats!

Miranda said...
on Dec. 3 2008 at 6:24 pm
lahotbrownie22, I am so glad you understood the message of my essay.

To remalgrez: I did not write it to generate pity. In fact, my intentions were the opposite. I sought to emphasize how anyone has the chance to move on with life, no matter his or her past. So to anyone out there who is facing hard times: Stay positive and do not feel sorry for yourself, you CAN overcome anything. This essay was also a means of therapy for me. Writing everything down helped me cope with the dark memories instead of suppress them.

It turns out something good HAS come out of this-- several readers told me they were inspired, and that is invaluable to me.

on Dec. 3 2008 at 3:51 am
for whoever said this was a pity essay, i pity them because they don't understand the triumph of overcoming seemingly impossible hurtles. and i say I also do not pity you, instead i admire you for being so witty in your life's reflections. for which ever college this is for, they will undoubtedly see your stellar style and technique of getting your point across. its not about the situation, but how the person comes out of it. i only wish i had the ability to write this well. :) god bless.

lubear said...
on Dec. 2 2008 at 5:39 pm
This essay is real banging and very nicely written. It amazing and it will most likely get you into tye college of your choice. Great Job